Ethics Quiz: The Duchess of York’s Website And The Duke of Plazatoro

The category is Celebrity Ethics, Royal Ethics or Marketing Ethics, depending on your point of view. Unfortunately for ethical clarity, how you answer today’s Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz may depend on which category you choose.

Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, is embarrassing the Royal Family again, only this time it isn’t by throwing snowballs at photographers or by not being as demure and lovely as the late Princess Diana. This time, the self-exiled and divorced Fergie is trading on her title to make a living as an internet huckster. She has a website that peddles a juicer for weight loss and “The Perfecter Ultra”:

The Perfecter Ultra Heated Styling Brush combines innovative ionic technology with pure black tourmaline heating plates for ultimate convenience in achieving salon quality hairstyles at home. Create silky straight styles or beautiful bouncing curls, reduce frizzies or add volume to thinning hair, the Perfecter Ultra is the remarkable styling tool that does it all.

The Duchess has also been appearing on QVC, the cable shopping network where shopping addicts, lonely recluses and easy marks hang out. Among the Royals, with whom she is already on the outs, this is considered…unseemly. Concludes Tom Sykes at the Daily Beast:

“Her website majors in its attempts to cast her shill as public service, saying, “One of my missions in life now is to help people fight their weight challenges so they can live longer, healthier and happier lives. Take it from me: you can do it!”  But the truth is, Fergie is selling her title, and getting paid a no-doubt healthy fee for her promotional activities.”

There’s little doubt that “selling her title” is a fair description.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is…

As Duchess of York, does Sarah Ferguson have an ethical obligation to behave like the symbol of the British Commonwealth that she and the rest of the Royal Family is, or can she ethically use her title as she chooses, including to sell junk on the internet?

Continue reading

The Sixth Annual Ethics Alarms Awards: The Worst of Ethics 2014 (Part 4 of 4)

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Outrageous Hoax Of The Year

Mamoru Samuragochi, the composer sometimes known as “The Japanese Beethoven” because he composed critically acclaimed works despite being deaf, was exposed as double fraud: he didn’t compose the works that made him Japan’s most popular classical composer, and he isn’t even really deaf!  Samuragochi hired a musical ghostwriter named Takashi Niigaki to compose more than twenty compositions for Samuragochi since 1996.

Funniest Outrageous Hoax

Fake Panda

This.

Unethical Artist Of The Year

Performance artist Maximo Caminero, who  walked into the Pérez Art Museum in Miami, entered a special exhibit of sixteen ancient Chinese vases painted over in bright colors by celebrated Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei, picked up one of them, and immediately after a security guard instructed him not to touch the exhibit, allowed the vase to fall from his hands, shattering into bits. Caminero admitted that smashing the pottery, which was valued at a million dollars,  was intentional, and was his protest against in support of local artists like himself whose work is not exhibited at the museum while the art of international artists like Weiwei is.

Unethical Veterinarian Of The Year

Fort Worth, Texas veterinarian Lou Tierce lost his license for five years as a result of, among other transgressions, his telling the owners of a Leonburger (it’s a very big dog) that their pet was terminally ill and had to be euthanized, then secretly keeping the dog alive in a small cage so he could use Sid’s blood for transfusions to Dr. Tierce’s other canine patients. Eventually an assistant at the clinic blew the whistle and alerted Sid’s owners, who rescued their dog and sicced the law on the worst veterinarian since Dean Jones menaced Beethoven.

Unethical Doctor Of The Year

Dr. Nancy Snyderman, NBC’s medical expert, endangered the public by defying a voluntary quarantine for possible Ebola exposure,  because she just couldn’t bear to be without her favorite soup.

Scam of the Year

Jonathan-Gruber-1

The Affordable Care Act.

 Unethical Federal Agency Of The Year

The Secret Service. Lots of competition in this category: the Veterans Administration, the I.R.S., the CDC, the Justice Department, NSA…but when you essentially have one job to do and do it badly, sloppily carelessly and dangerously, there’s really not much more to say Continue reading

Getting Eaten Alive By A Really Big Snake Ethics: The Rest Of The Story

My guess: Paul tastes like chicken...

My guess: Paul tastes like chicken…

When we left naturalist and filmmaker Paul Rosolie, we were told that he journeyed  to the Amazon, donned a special suit, slathered himself in pigs’ blood, and allowed himself to be swallowed whole by an anaconda on “Eaten Alive,” in a two-hour special produced by  the Discovery Channel that would air December 7.  Rosolie would be removed from the snake by a cord attached to his suit, presumably before he was digested. Animal rights groups and zoologists objected, quite accurately, that this was cruelty to animals for sport.

What did viewers see on December 7? (I’m sorry: my sock drawer desperately needed organizing that day. I’m basing this on published accounts.) Rosolie found an appropriately large and hungry  snake and attracted its attention in the water. The 20-feet long reptile attacked, wrapped around him and then began to constrict. Then the snake started to try to eat the naturalist head first:  Rosolie’s helmet camera provided a lovely shot of  the anaconda’s gaping throat.

At that point, Rosolie did a terrific imitation of Gene Wilder as “Young Frankenstein” after he had himself locked in a room with the Monster with instructions that nobody should let him out no matter how much he begged. (“Let me out! Let me OUT OF HERE!!! GET ME THE HELL OUT OF HERE!!!….Mommy!” ) Rosalie’s team rushed in and pulled him away, disappointing the snake. Continue reading

“Boobs on the Ground” Ethics

"we have met the boob, and it is me."

“We have met the boob, and it is me.”

I was going to make this an Ethics Quiz, but that dignifies Eric Bolling’s crude and disrespectful comment on Fox’s “The Five” more than it deserves. Would I accept such a sophomoric “quip” at a dinner party of close friends, at a bachelor party, in a group of women who knew me and could tell when I was intentionally tweaking them, in a setting where groans and objects thrown at my head were appropriate?  Oh, probably. I’ve made worse jokes myself, knowing how bad they were, knowing they were offensive, knowing that I had the good will of my companions and that they would take them the right way. But as a presenter in a seminar? As a panel member? In an auditorium? Over the radio? On TV? Never.

Any statement is defined to some extent by the audience it was intended for (See: Sterling, Donald) For a supposed broadcast professional to say what Bolling said about the United Arab Emirates‘s first female pilot who served as the flight leader during air strikes in Syria (“Would that be considered boobs on the ground, or no?”) can’t be excused or justified: Continue reading

Dear Discovery Channel: Fire Paul Lewis, Or You Will Regret It. Trust Me On This.

The Discovery Channel’s president, Paul Lewis, approved a promotional campaign for the rapidly rotting cable channel’s “Shark Week” that included a fake video, shown above,  intended to “go viral” and convince people that there are sharks in Lake Ontario. After the video prompted the Ontario Minister of Natural Resources  to warn swimmers and anxiety over the shark sighting was expressed in social media, the channel’s ad agency admitted that it was hoax. Some people still don’t believe it’s a hoax, however, because they’ve seen “Jaws.” After all, claiming a real sighting is a hoax to save the tourist season is just the sort of thing Amity Mayor Larry Vaughn would do, right?

Or that equally slimy Paul Lewis would do. Here is his despicable, ethics-free “apology”:

“We didn’t want it to be something that would negatively impact people’s summer…It’s unfortunate that some people took what we did so serious. If we upset anybody, of course I apologize for that. It would be totally counterproductive for us to go out there and upset and disturb our audience.”

First of all, how does someone become president of a communications company who uses “serious” like that? Continue reading

A Proposed Guide To Spoiler Ethics

"It SINKS??? You spoiled the ending!!!"

“It SINKS??? You spoiled the ending!!!”

I was just admonished on Facebook by a friend (a real friend, not just the Facebook variety), for referencing the end of the last episode of Season One of “Orange is the New Black.”  He hadn’t finished viewing the season yet, and this was a breach of spoiler ethics. Or was it?

Ever since I encountered for real someone who was angry with me for “spoiling” the end of “Thirteen Days,” ( “Yes, World War III started and everybody died”), I have been dubious about spoiler etiquette. The advent of DVDs and Netflix has made this all the more annoying. If I’m in a group of five, and one individual hasn’t kept up with “House of Cards,” are the rest of us obligated to censor our discussion? As a devotee and fanatic devourer of popular culture, I admit that my first instinct is to say, “Keep up, get literate, or pay the price.” If I actually live by that rule, however, I will be a walking, talking, writing, spoiler machine.

Chuck Klosterman, “The Ethicist” in the world of the New York Times, recently pronounced himself an anti-spoiler absolutist:

“I’m an anti-spoiler fascist. I don’t believe that any conversation, review or sardonic tweet about a given TV show is more valuable than protecting an individual’s opportunity to experience the episode itself (and to watch it within the context for which it was designed). I’ve never heard a pro-spoiler argument that wasn’t fundamentally absurd.”

Even Klosterman, however, excepted sporting events (the question posed involved mentioning World Cup scores to a friend who was annoyed that the game had been “spoiled” for him) from his fascism, writing, reasonably:

“I must concede that live, unrehearsed events are not subject to “spoiler” embargoes A live event is a form of breaking news. It’s not just entertainment; it’s the first imprint of living history. …Because this guy is your buddy, you might want to avoid discussing the games’ outcomes out of common courtesy — but not out of any moral obligation. It’s his own responsibility to keep himself in the dark about current events.”

For once I agree with Chuck. But what are reasonable ethics rules for dealing with the other kind of spoiler, involving literature and entertainment?

Luckily, this is not new territory, though it is evolving territory. The underlying ethical principles include fairness, trust, consideration, compassion, and empathy, which means that the Golden Rule is also involved.

Back in 2010, an erudite blogger calling himself The Reading Ape proposed a draft “Guide to Responsible Spoiling.” That blog is defunct; the promised successor is not around, and so far, I haven’t been able to discover who the Ape is. Whoever he is (Oh Aaaaape! Come back, Ape!) , he did a very good job, though some tweeks might  improve his work, especially in light of the emergence of Netflix.  (I have edited it slightly, not substantively…I hope he doesn’t mind, or if he does, that he’s not a big ape.) His approach is to frame the problem as an ethical conflict, in which two competing ethics principles must be balanced. I think that’s right.

Here is his “draft”—what do you think?

“A Brief Guide to Responsible Spoiling”

by The Reading Ape (2010)

The objective is to balance two ethical principles:

I. The Right to Surprise: The inherent right of any viewer or reader to experience the pleasure of not knowing what’s
going to happen next.

II. The Right to Debate: The inherent right of any viewer or reader to engage in public discourse about the content of
a given work of narrative art.

Part 1: When Spoiling is Fair Game

In the following circumstances, one can discuss crucial plot details and reveal endings with a clear conscience. Continue reading

A&E Does A Cracker Barrel

spine poster

The fecklessness and lack of core principles exhibited by our corporations is often breathtaking.

A&E has now, like Cracker Barrel, stuck its pusillanimous finger in the air and  decided that their “strong sense of integrity and deep commitment” to principle means that they do what whatever interest group has the most profit potential for them down the line wants them to do. Thus Phil Robertson is back on “Duck Dynasty,” and his “indefinite suspension” has been disclaimed by his employers. You can read A&E’s nauseating statement here…I considered posting it, but I don’t have the heart.

Everything I wrote previously about Cracker Barrel’s reversal on this same incident applies to A&E, but let me add this.

An organization with no core principles distinct from the profit motive is capable of anything, including outright evil. It is not worthy of trust. I would not and could not work for such an organization, and this episode makes me wonder if the entire concept of corporate ethics is a lie.

__________________________

Pointer: ablativmeatshld

Facts: Hollywood Reporter

 

Ethics Dunces (“Duck Dynasty” vs Political Correctness Division): Republicans

freedomofspeechLet us be clear: Phil Robertson’s comments about gay Americans in “Gentleman’s Quarterly” were, as matter of fact, profoundly insulting to a large group of citizens who do not deserve to be insulted and have every reason to feel attacked and offended.

That does not mean that the position Phil Robertson holds, which is an unfortunate ancient remnant of traditional religion-based morality that will only be addressed by time, education, patience and dialogue, should be suppressed, declared taboo, or made the basis of job-related sanctions when it is part of the reality of those in his culture, and he is the star of a reality show based on that culture.

Thus the principles of tolerance, diversity, freedom of thought, expression and religious belief can and should be properly defended by raising objections to A&E’s quick capitulation to the pressures of political correctness.

That does not mean that it is appropriate, considerate, reasonable or smart for public officials like Sarah Palin, Ted Cruz and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal to declare their support for Robertson himself and his retrograde and destructive beliefs. Calling an entire group of law-abiding Americans “sinners” because one’s religion has chosen to ignore the advances in knowledge of the past century is not the mark of “a great citizen,” to quote Jindal. It is the mark of a sadly misled and ignorant citizen, who nonetheless is representative of another large group of Americans who have the right to express their outmoded views without sanctions even if they are dead, dead wrong. Continue reading

Ethics Quote Of The Day (“Duck Dynasty” vs Political Correctness Division): Reason’s Brian Doherty

“There may have been a good reason why classical tolerance of expression was summed up in the epigram: ‘I disagree with what you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it!’ That has a different feel than: ‘I disagree with what you say, I think you are evil for having said it, I think no one should associate with you and you ought to lose your livelihood, and anyone who doesn’t agree with me about all that is skating on pretty thin ice as well, but hey, I don’t think you should be arrested for it.”

—– Reason Magazine’s Brian Doherty, writing about A&E choosing to punish its reality show star, Phil Robertson, for expressing his religious beliefs about homosexuality in response to a magazine interviewer’s question.

dynasty

Nicely done, Mr. Doherty. Continue reading

A&E’s “Duck Dynasty” Suspension: Reality Show Ethics And Political Correctness

duck-dynasty-gq-

TV’s reality shows, particularly the cable variety, are like 19th Century freak shows. They are guilty pleasures where Americans can go to stare, gawk, snicker, be horrified and repulsed, and often feel superior to the weird mutations of the human species that they see exhibited. The phenomenon doesn’t speak well for the purveyors, the audience or the culture, but the it is popular and profitable.  Yesteryears’s dog-faced boy is today’s Honey Boo-Boo. Viewers aren’t offended by the awful things the stars say and do..they are entertained by them. Sometimes, sadly, they are inspired by them.

The current hot property in the genre is A&E’s “Duck Dynasty,” the saga of Louisiana’s willfully odd Robertson clan, who have become millionaires through their invention of effective duck calls, wear long beards as trademarks and are proud, God-fearing Christian conservatives of the most primitive variety. Their “Deliverance” lifestyle and profoundly counter-Obama Era attitudes are part of the  Robertsons’ “entertainment” package, just as  the late Anna Nicole Smith getting carried through her fat, drunk and stupid days by her greedy sycophants and enablers was part of hers. This is reality TV, Americans! Be proud.

“Duck Dynasty’s” patriarch Phil, however, made the mistake of stepping out of the bayou for an interview with Gentleman’s Quarterly, in which he held forth on, among other topics, his views on homosexuality. Lacking Rick Santorum’s subtle touch, Phil declared:

“It seems like, to me, a vagina—as a man—would be more desirable than a man’s anus. That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.”

and on sin…

“Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there…Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men…Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers — they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”

Horrified that an unsophisticated, ignorant Bible-obeying Christian conservative heterosexual would dare to express the typical views of an unsophisticated, ignorant Bible-obeying Christian conservative heterosexual, GLAAD and other groups attacked Robertson and  pressured A&E to punish him for being exactly what A&E hires him to be. Setting some kind or record for absurd dudgeon, Chad Griffin, the president of the Human Rights Group proclaimed,

“Phil Robertson’s remarks are not consistent with the values of our faith communities or the scientific findings of leading medical organizations. We know that being gay is not a choice someone makes, and that to suggest otherwise can be incredibly harmful. We also know that Americans of faith follow the Golden Rule — treating others with the respect and dignity you’d wish to be treated with. As a role model on a show that attracts millions of viewers, Phil Robertson has a responsibility to set a positive example for young Americans — not shame and ridicule them because of who they are. The A+E Network should take immediate action to condemn Phil Robertson’s remarks and make clear they don’t support his views.”

I know this disrupts the thrust of this post, but I can’t led it pass. Allow me to deconstruct Griffin’s absurd statement, which is—I’m sorry, but sometimes only one word will do—crap: Continue reading